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Queens Library's After-School Programs Draw Long Lines for Vital Services

By Katie Honan | September 28, 2016 12:51pm
 Parents registered their kids for the free after-school program STACKS at the Corona Library on Sept. 27, 2016.
Parents registered their kids for the free after-school program STACKS at the Corona Library on Sept. 27, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — Outside the Queens Library branch on 104th Street, parents started lining up at 10 am., even though the doors wouldn't open until 1 p.m.

They were waiting to get a spot for one of their children at STACKS, a free after-school program with homework help and enrichment programming that's offered five days a week at 20 libraries throughout Queens.

With only 40 available slots, many realized they'd have to get there early. Branch manager Vilma Daza handed out numbers to parents who waited two more hours inside for registration that began at 3 p.m. 

"We already have a waiting list," she said as she handed out forms to parents on the line, which wrapped around rows and rows of books. 

STACKS is particularly popular in Corona, one of the busiest branches in the Queens Library system. The space is a hub for the largely immigrant community that surrounds it, offering help for kids along with their parents.

On Tuesday afternoon, there was a full GED class going on alongside homework help offered by a volunteer, who worked with a handful of students.

"It's Corona — they don't got nothing here. And when they do have something it gets like this," Jeanie Dominguez, 29, said as she registered her son Daniel, 7, for STACKS.

Due to the demand, families could only sign up one of their children for the program, according to Daza. 

Dominguez chose Daniel because he needed the help more than her 8-year-old daughter Daniela, she said. He was already behind in his second grade class, with more than 30 students.

"(STACKS) is necessary," she said. "Can you imagine, one teacher for over 30 kids? He's excited, he likes to learn."

Daniel Dominguez's mom signed him up for the STACKS program to help him catch u in the second grade, she said. He poses with his older sister, Daniela. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

The program, now in its second year, helps students with their homework but also offers hands-on activities — a more curriculum-focused program that evolved from the library's former BOOST program, according to Amanda Aponte, the program's director. 

"We realized that, although BOOST was great for what it was, we really weren't capturing any kind of data," she said.  

"We were doing great things, but there was no way to show evidence of that without tracking that."

BOOST was formed as a next step for kids who gathered at local libraries while waiting for their parents to get home from work.

It lacked uniformity, though, with different activities offered at each branch, Aponte said.

At each of the STACKS programs, an hour to an hour-and-a-half is dedicated to homework help. The rest of the program, which runs from 3 until 5:30 p.m., is interactive projects, week-long research assignments and STEM-focused activities. 

"All of the activities we do in STACKS are hands-on, interactive, engaging and fun," Aponte said.

The 20 libraries were selected by need, by their proximity to elementary schools and by what's available nearby.

It's open for kids ages six to 14 — and free for all library card holders who commit for a year.

STACKS is funded by a mix of donations and general library funds. This year, the Investors Foundation funded the Lefferts branch program with an $11,000 grant — helping expand the much-needed program to another library. 

It runs Oct. 5 through the last day of school, officials said. 

For more information, visit the Queens Library website